RPGaDay 2017, Day 21: Which RPG does the most with the least words?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG does the most with the least words?

John Harper is the fricking master of this. Of the seven games currently listed on the homepage of his website, one.seven design, one is 1 page long, three are 2 pages long, and one is 4 pages long. That 1-pager is Lasers & Feelings, which is a pretty impressive RPG inspired by shows like Star Trek, and while it would therefore seem to be the obvious candidate I’m actually going to pick some of John Harper’s other work instead.

Specifically, I’m going to give it jointly to the three chapters of the Tales from the Wild Blue Yonder: Lady Blackbird (16 pages), Magister Lor (9 pages), and Lord Scurlock (11 pages). Although connected by a single setting, these are completely separate games. Each booklet presents the relevant parts of the setting in sufficient detail, a backstory and an inciting incident, then pre-generated character sheets for the cast of characters. These characters are fully statted but have room to grow, with personalities sketched in just enough detail to inspire without constraining, but most importantly with motivations and relationships with all the other characters. Each character sheet also has the complete rules of the game, so the booklet literally has everything you need to start except dice.

RPGaDay 2017, Day 20: What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

When I’ve found interesting out-of-print RPGs in the past, it has been in one of two ways. Either I’ve found a second-hand book in a trader’s bin at a convention, or I’ve found a pdf online. Both methods tend to be unreliable for finding somethng you’re specifically looking for, unless you know somebody that already has the game. It’s a good thing that there are so many great RPGs still in print, to be honest.

RPGaDay 2017, Day 19: Which RPG features the best writing?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG features the best writing?

I understand this question to mean “writing” as something distinct from the part of game design associated with rules and mechanics. I take the question to be close to those “best art” questions, in that it refers to how the presentation and style of an RPG—in this case, its use of language—contributes to its setting, tone, theme, etc. A lot of people are probably going to say Apocalypse World for today’s answer, because it’s got a reputation for doing exactly that, bringing the apocalypse to life in the mind of the reader. Alas, I’ve never actually read the Apocalypse World book from cover to cover, and never got a sense of its use of language.

One game whose use of language I absolutely love, though, is Swords Without Master. Right from the get-go it makes it clear what sort of RPG we’ll be playing. Here’s the first paragraph:

Gather writing implements, scraps of paper, three or four of your cohorts, and two six-sided dice that you can easily tell apart to a table. A mahogany table adorned with thick, greasy candles and five human skulls. Failing that, a stout oaken table near a glowing hearth, replete with ale-filled steins and a succulent roast. Or, if you prefer, a tabletop chipped whole from a single obsidian stone, placed on the back of a coiled serpent of silver in a room high in a lonely tower shrouded in a prismatic fog.

But it goes further than this: use of evocative language is actually built into the game through its use of tones. Every dice roll in the game sets the tone as Jovial or Glum (or, rarely, a third tone chosen by a player), and the definitions of those tones are wonderful. They start with a list of pseudo-synonyms but then provide examples of the tone in play. Here are the examples for Glum:

The gray-green sky just before a storm, a starlit path, whispers from forgotten languages, the blade drawn swiftly across the throat, stifled laughing, gentle weeping, subtle enchantments, erudite conversation, the furtive glances of new lovers, a song sung in a minor key, a book enjoyed by candlelight, armies awaiting each other in the rain.

If running the game for the first time, I definitely recommend reading them aloud to your players.

You want the examples of the Jovial tone? Then I suggest you buy the game for yourself! Ho ho ho!

RPGaDay 2017, Day 18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

As I said on Day 4, the RPG I’ve played most sessions of is Unknown Armies. But I covered that before, so instead I’m going to talk about the RPGs that I’ve played most different campaigns or settings. That’s much harder, and I’m not sure I know exactly the answer. It could be Fate Core, but I talk about that enough, so instead I’m going to go with Psi*Run and Fiasco.

What makes these games so interesting is that every session is completely unique. For Fiasco, that’s mostly as a result of the playset you use. I can’t remember all of the playsets I’ve ever used, but a few that jump out in my memory are:

For Psi*Run, on the other hand, it’s down to the questions you ask and the order in which you answer them in the game. And that means that Psi*Run can get wild. I’ve had Psi*Run games based in the modern day, which is the default setting, but also I’ve had ones set underground after the apocalypse, or on a spaceship, or ones that hopped reality. Games have ended with player characters being captured, defeating the Chasers, being the Chasers all along, turning into dogs, eating reality, or personally carrying the Sun around the Earth forever. Like I said: wild.

RPGaDay 2017, Day 17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

That would be Kindred of the East, which claims to be a supplement for Vampire: The Masquerade but is basically a game all of its own. It’s the One World of Darkness game that features vampires based on Asian (primarily Chinese) folklore, which are totally unrelated to the vampires featured in Masquerade. For several reasons, I am content to never play this game, so I suppose it will always be the game that I’ve owned the longest and never played.

RPGaDay 2017, Day 16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

This answer feels a bit like a cheat, as if I’m not obeying the spirit of the question, when I say my favourite RPG for using as-is is Microscope. It’s just so flexible that the base game barely feels restrictive. Don’t get me wrong, I like tweaking the rules a bit too (see the way I used it to run a Star Wars game). I also like the expansion rules like Microscope Union, which my friends and I recently used to run a game based on dynastic fighting games like Tekken. But the base game rules-as-written has not been rendered obsolete by these other possibilities, and is still as powerful as when it first came out.

RPGaDay 2017, Day 15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

RPGaDay 2017 infographic

RPGaDay is an annual celebration of tabletop roleplaying. This is the first year I’ve tried to do it.

Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

This one’s easy: the game I enjoy adapting the most is Fate Core, and the related games under that banner (like Fate Accelerated Edition and various Fate Worlds and Adventures). The mechanics are straightforward and their purpose is transparent enough to see what each bit does, so it’s easy to chop and change and be confident how your changes will affect the narrative of your game. The Fate System Toolkit is great for this, and there’s a huge community online of people who are constantly taking the game apart and doing interesting things with it.

As evidence of my interest, I’m going to highlight my version of TinyFate (a minimalist Fate hack based on the work of Rob Donoghue) and the Fate of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (a TMNT hack based on PK Sullivan’s The Three Rocketeers).

I have some hopes for Cortex Prime in the future, though…